Google Digital News Initiative awards more than £19m to Dennis, Wikitribune, Al Jazeera et al to support quality journalism

Google Digital News Initiative awards over £19m in funding to publishers in Europe

Google’s Digital News Initiative, now in its third round, has awarded over £19m in funding to over 100 projects across Europe - including Dennis’ publisher sell-side platform Project Arete, Jimmy Wales’ news platform Wikitribune, and Al Jazeera’s news messaging app.

The Digital News Initiative was launched two years ago as part of a partnership between Google and news publishers in Europe. The initiative forms part of a wider strategy from the search giant to show news publishers it supports, rather than undercuts, quality journalism, having come under the spotlight this year for the often detrimental effect it can have on news.

As well as investing in product development, research and training, the search giant also launched the DNI Innovation Fund, committing €150m (£132m) to innovation projects across the European news industry.

It received more than 988 project submissions from 27 countries in Europe for the fund, of which 107 projects have received funding worth €22m (£19m) in total. Of the 107 projects funded today, 49 are prototypes (early stage projects requiring up to €50k of funding), 31 are medium-sized projects (requiring up to €300k of funding) and 27 are large projects (requiring up to €1m of funding).

Google said it has seen a growing interest in fact checking experiments, with 29% more applications in that field in comparison to the previous rounds.

This comes in the midst of a fake news crisis whereby many in the news industry have pointed the finger at Google and Facebook for proliferating the spread of fake news online by not placing enough value in quality news.

In response to this, Google in April released tools that enable web users to flag up questionable content, as it reshuffled sites known to share such items down the search rankings.

There’s also been a rise in projects including artificial intelligence (+23% more applications than last round), investigative reporting (+20% more) and immersive approaches through virtual and augmented reality (+20% more), as well as collaborative projects between organisations.

Dennis Publishing’s Project Arete is one such example of a collaborative project that will be built and launched as part of the publisher co-operative Pangaea Alliance. Members of the alliance include Dennis, CNN, the Guardian, the Financial Times, Reuters and Inc magazine.

Project Arete will develop a prototype sell-side digital advertising trading platform designed specifically for premium publishers. Its key USP is that it will “guarantee transaction transparency” for both the sell-side and the buy-side, at a time when adtech players are facing increased scrutiny from publishers due to cases of disappearing revenue.

“This layer of verified transparency will afford legacy publishers the ability to demonstrate and execute the true value of their media and audiences,” Dennis said in a statement.

WikiTribune, meanwhile, a news platform launched by Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, has been awarded €385,000.

The platform seeks to solve the problem of clickbait low-quality journalism by bringing community members into the virtual newsroom to work side-by-side with paid professional journalists. The latter will research and report news stories alongside volunteers who curate articles by proofreading, fact-checking, suggesting changes and adding sources for stories that matter.

Al Jazeera’s AJ Labs London has received funding to build an open-source, interactive, storytelling app for news and current affairs features where the user experiences journalism via a messaging platform.

The app enables journalists to embed content from interviews with a variety sources into a series of messaging exchanges, and it allows the user to choose between a number of seemingly direct conversations with the interviewees. The user’s responses trigger the next messaging exchange and pivotal “decision points” give the user choices on how to progress.

“The result is a personalised, immersive, in-depth experience of a serious news story,” Al Jazeera said in the release.

Other projects that received funding include Full Fact, a non-partisan fact-checking service, and Verifeye Media, a technology that would allow news organisations to quickly verify video and photos taken by eyewitnesses.

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Jessica Goodfellow

The Drum's media reporter covering everything from publishing, TV, social media, radio and technology.

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